Originally written on Midway Illustrated  |  Last updated 11/6/14
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery is a man with a plan, and has a way of communicating that plan to the media and fans that Jerry Angelo never had.  Emery knows what the teams weaknesses are and is going to do his best to fix those weaknesses.  The question remains does he have the eye and the philosophy to go out and find the players that in fact fix those weaknesses?  Has he hired the coaches who can take the players that he assembles and develop them to the point that they are successful in Chicago? We look to answer that question by evaluating some of the positives and the negatives of year one under Phil Emery. After firing head coach  Lovie Smith Emery went to great lengths to explain how he evaluated the offensive line during and after the season.   "I went to  STATS Inc., went through all the numbers. Went to Pro Football Focus, did all the numbers. I’m familiar with STATS  Inc. We’re one of their contracted teams. Spent quite a bit of time with their people, not only their programmers but went to their offices, watched how they grade tape, how they triple check all their facts."   Emery went on to discuss what his thought process was during the 2012 off-season and how he could bring in talent to improve the offensive line.  His reasoning was on point, the UFA market for offensive tackles last season was awful.  No one stood out as a possible target so the only other way to go about fixing the offensive line was to find a player in the draft.  Two players in the draft wound being starting left tackles in the NFL as rookies, Matt Khalil and Cordy Glenn.  Khalil was long gone before the Bears could select and most scouts projected Glenn to be a guard rather than a tackle.  Glenn proved otherwise, but it's arguable whether or not that's a reflection on Emery's failed evaluation to miss a player like that.  So Emery stuck with Webb and Carimi, both young and relatively talented.  The expectation; and it was a fair one, that Carimi would be the best offensive lineman on the team this season.  Carimi would return healthy and he would stabilize the right side of the line.  Instead Carimi turned out to be the worst offensive lineman on the team during the 2012 season which became a problem with the rest of the balance of the line.  Emery was right to pass on the players in the draft, and instead focused on the pass rusher need with the Bears first round pick.  This may yet prove to be the biggest mistake he made in year one as a general manager. The goal here was to find a situational pass rusher who could come in and develop into a base 4-3 defensive end.  The Bears went with Shea McClellin the defensive end/outside linebacker prospect from Boise State.  Year one of McClellin was just short of being an outright disaster for the Bears for two reasons.  One McClellin is neither big enough strong enough or explosive enough off the edge to be a consistent enough pass rusher.  He doesn't have an array of pass rush moves that leads you to believe that he'll one day be successful as a 4-3 end.  He's also horrible against the run, grading out as the lowest graded run defender on the Bears according to profootballfocus.   He's at best an outside linebacker who needs to be moved around a lot and be put in a position to blitz.  The Bears aren't moving to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker so McClellin is stuck at DE.  Tucker doesn't blitz much so it remains to be seen how the Bears will utilize him.  Second major problem with McClellin, his concussion history.  In four years at Boise State McClellin suffered a reported three concussion.  A concussion history should be an immediate red flag for any player, let alone a prospect you're planning to draft in the first round.   Emery ignored the warnings and McClellin suffered his first concussion in a Bears  uniform and missed a game as a result.  The second round pick Emery nailed based on his rookie evaluation.  Alshon Jeffery looks like he can develop into a number one receiver and immediately became the second best receiver on the team in 2012.  He's a pretty good down the field play maker and can win with physical play.  There are still questions surrounding his route running ability however, as Jeffery essentially ran the same three routes all season.  He struggled to get separation at times, but on other points looked like he could be a future 1,000-yard receiver.   Emery gets a good grade for moving up to improve the  play-makers around Jay Cutler.  Moving back to the defense we come to another questionable move from Phil Emery in year one, in the draft and subsequent benching of Brandon Hardin.  Hardin who missed his senior season with a shoulder injury, was drafted as a safety.  He played corner in college but is a big physical player who looks the part of a safety from an athletic standpoint.  In training camp and early preseason games however, Hardin looked lost.  He suffered a neck injury that he could have returned from but was subsequently put on the season-ending IR.  He could have been placed on the newly created eight week IR and then been brought back to play, but the Bears didn't trust his development enough to play him at all.  Hardin doesn't look like he'll develop into a safety much less make it in the NFL.  In the fourth round the Bears drafted a H-back that turned into a fullback.  Evan Rodriguez was a TE in college who the Bears thought could come and develop at that position  here in Chicago.  Some called him the next Aaron Hernandez the dynamic TE who plays in New England.  Instead he wound up becoming the starter at fullback who never showed any signs he could  play TE.  Since the Bears already had a good FB in Tyler Clutts, Emery gets a miss for this draft pick as well.  Beyond the fourth round Emery traded the fifth round pick to move up to grab Jeffery and then  drafted two cornerbacks who failed to make the 53-man roster and looked horrible in the preseason.  The strategy to not  at least try and find a player that could potentially be an developmental offensive lineman is inexcusable.  Signing James Brown a projected fourth round draft pick and having him make the 53-man roster is a plus, but Brown shouldn't be counted on to be a starter.  Brown projects at best as a backup guard and doesn't show any real hope at OT.  Emery for his draft gets a D, he completely missed on Shea McClellin projecting him as a DE rather than his true position of linebacker.  Hit on Alshon Jeffery, but missed on every player in the draft after Jeffery.  He was brought in to be a draft guru, his scouting background was supposed to make the draft his strongest skill.  Rodriguez could be considered another starter, but there is little to no value in a fullback in today's NFL.  You can't draft only one projected starter per year in the NFL draft or you'll be out looking for work in a much shorter time frame than Jerry Angelo did. The biggest off-season move of Emery's tenure was trading for Brandon Marshall.  Finding a 100 reception 1,400 yard receiver in the prime of his career for the price of only two third round draft picks  is why everyone is in love with Emery and are back in love after his press conference.  Marshall is the best off-season pickup on offense the Bears have had in probably the history of the franchise.  The Marshall trade is better than the Cutler trade because Marshall has unquestionably lived up to expectations.  Another solid move was picking up Michael Bush as a backup to Matt Forte.  Bush struggled with an injury and didn't get a lot of carries in the Mike Tice offense but showed reasons why he is worth the money given to him.  Other than Marshall and Bush however, free agency was a bust for the Bears.  Jason Campbell was horrible as the backup to Jay Cutler and at a cost of $3.5-million was no where near the value expected of him.  Campbell was outplayed throughout training camp and the preseason games by the older more experienced Josh McCown.  McCown however was cut and the Bears were forced to re-sign McCown after Cutler went down with a concussion.  McCown should have been the backup last season, but money invested once again trumped a higher level of play and  Campbell "won" the job.  In season roster management by Emery also gets low marks.  The handling of the Michael Bush injury situation was baffling.  Bush was healthy enough to play, then he wasn't healthy enough then maybe he was but was put on season-ending IR.  Leaving the Bears with Forte and Armando Allen as the running backs.  The only thing that saved this situation from being a real problem was Kahlil Bell being cut by the Jets after being picked up by them earlier.  Bell was signed by the Jets and had he stuck to the roster the Bears would have been scrambling to find a RB late in the season.  The safety situation with injuries became a major problem with Hardin being healthy enough to come back and play and learn, but instead being stuck on IR.  Emery instead had to hold a Tuesday tryout and sign the winner of that tryout to a contract.  Troy Nolan had zero experience in a 4-3 defense and had four days to learn the Bears playbook.  Anthony Walters became the starter, during a roster scramble that could have been completely avoided by simply putting Hardin on the eight week IR.  To wrap up year one of Phil Emery, he fired Lovie Smith as head coach and interviewed 13 head coaching candidates before settling on Marc Trestman.  A lot of NFL analysts have praised the hiring of Trestman, but a lot of those same analysts have a working/friendship from when Trestman was in the league.  Trestman is seen as a QB guru who hasn't been in the NFL for eight years and completely rebuilt his reputation by becoming a successful head coach in the CFL.  Trestman is essentially here to get the best out of Jay Cutler, and if he doesn't then both Emery and Trestman will be fired simultaneously in four years.
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